Discover the progress of straw bale construction from single-family homes to affordable
alternatives for various building types at ESBG 2023.
Globally, central governments are announcing transformational declarations (‘net-zero’,
‘decarbonisation’ etc) and the construction industry is speedily endeavouring to manage its
operational output to mitigate the harmful emissions over the decades.
In Europe, straw bale construction is already pioneering this transformation, and through
European Strawbale Building Association (ESBA) its partners meet again to demonstrate the
benefits of constructing with straw at this spectacular biennial conference.
Join us in Brenderup for exhibitions, training, keynote speakers, presentations, and much
Location: Brenderup Folk High School, Brenderup Højskole, Stationsvej 54, 5464
Comparisons with global climates revealed the unique challenge West Wales poses for strawbale construction. Many studies have focused on measuring internal humidity and temperature of strawbale walls to determine moisture content, however, these often lacked information specific to the climate of West Wales. Alex’s work aimed to find the best method to measure moisture content and assess the performance of different external finishes in managing moisture in this region.
Join us as he explores the challenges in obtaining precise data due to climate-related scepticism and ambiguity surrounding the topic.
Reserve your spot now, HERE
The video of our online event with George and his home, Old Holloway, is now on our YouTube channel
Watch it here and share with your network!
Architect George Mikurcik began work on his home 14 years ago.
It was the first Ecococon home built in the UK, is an award winning site and George will be discussing with us the concept, the build and sharing supporting data at our meeting.
Join us to hear the stories behind this groundbreaking home and ask questions directly to George on the night.
Register here now!
Join us at our next Members’ meeting Special on Wednesday 9th November, 7pm – 8pm.
Our guest speaker is Joe Giddings of ‘Built by Nature’ and he will be discussing, ‘Timber and Insurance‘.
Many of you that are involved with the practical elements of building with low carbon / natural materials will understand that the sector presently has an inconsistent process to enable a smooth method when constructing with such materials.
Joe has been investigating through his work at ‘Built By Nature‘ and with the group he helped to found, ‘Architects Climate Action Network‘, how this is managed. There will be a Q&A and here we can share our own experiences for discussion too!
Zoom Meeting link is below:
This is an open meeting to the public – we look forward to seeing you then!
Did you know that Miscanthus has water vapour permeability properties compatible with that in traditional construction and sequesters carbon (around 130 kg CO2eq/m3)?
Join us on Wednesday 6th July, 7pm (GMT) as we discuss the building potential in construction of this bio based material.
The talk will be led by PHD Research student, Fabrice Ntimugura (University of Exeter) and will be followed by a Q&A session.
As part of my MSc in Green Building – Centre for Alternative Technology (cat.org.uk) at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) we had great fun on the “Sustainable Materials in the Built Environment” module in May 2022 experimenting on site with clay, lime, hemp, straw, miscanthus, cork, rammed earth and other novel materials. It is a fantastic group of students from many of the different MSc and MArch courses taking part bringing great energy, passion and imagination to solving the Environment Emergencies.
The experimenting involved building a hempcrete arch, using miscanthus to create “cob” bricks and sourcing alternative fibres from the surrounding landscape.
Highly recommended to anyone to anyone wanting to learn more about practical solutions for our changing planet. Inspiring tutors, site, history and students comes together to make for an extraordinary experience.
This report stresses that “from residential to commercial buildings, the UK’s built environment is responsible for 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) warns that to date there has been a lack of Government impetus or policy levers to assess and reduce these emissions. With climate deadlines looming, urgent action is needed.”
Our members contributed significantly to this report, as did other organisations allied in this movement.
SBUK demonstrated through analytical reporting and data, that natural materials are a robust solution to the problems that the built environment is striving to overcome.
We are very excited to announce that the ‘Technical Guide’ for Straw Construction, is now out!
The Technical Guide is a vital component within the EU-INTERREG funded project, ‘UPSTRAW’, the aim of which is to promote the benefits and good practice of constructing with straw.
Authored by The School of Natural Building (SNaB), who were the UK representatives for UPSTRAW and SBUK its sub-partners, it is essential for self-builders, contractors, planners, structural engineers, finance/insurance personnel and anyone interested in building with straw!
The Technical Guide is FREE and available to download here
Under the guidance of course leader, Hubert Gruber, our SBUK Director, Kit Jones, participated in the latest edition of the ‘STEP’ programme.
STEP (Strawbuilding Training for European Professionals) is a strawbuilding course (online & practical) which is curated and led by qualified and professional builders. We, at SBUK, endorse the STEP curriculum and will utilise it to widely spread the knowledge of strawbale construction to the built environment.
Hubert is the co-President of the European StrawBale Association and Chairman of the Austrian StrawBale Network. He has extensive experience as a course leader in strawbale construction education and as a strawbale designer and builder.
Kit is a qualified and experienced carpenter, and works with bio-based materials: straw, timber, hemp, lime and earth. His appraisal is a welcome continuation of SBUK’s aim: to promote straw bale building and best practice within the sector.
Read the review here
In Winter 1993 a publication entered the built environment, etching its name as a hallowed journal for straw as a construction material – The Last Straw.
Emanating from USA the first issue had a national/regional take on straw construction: structural testing in Tucson; construction of an eight sided strawbale house; the Genesis farm in New Jersey; training with school children, and venturing further north in Canada for fire testing.
It came as no surprise that as the world woke up to the benefits of working with this material The Last Straw went further afield and brought together the incremental parts of natural construction: other types of natural building materials, building codes/regulations, finance (insurance and mortgages). The more recent issues also took on an international perspective with news from across the globe too (issue #4 features modular systems at ‘The Great Straw Conference’ in Cirencester in England, 1993).
Our members were evangelical about The Last Straw, not just as a networking hub, but for its notable sources of information. Sadly the last edition was published in Spring 2017.
Imagine then, our joy in late 2021, as The Last Straw resurfaced on Instagram to announce that it was returning!
For those of you that do not possess these collectors’ items, worry not – click here for the newsletter and the archive of their journal. Welcome back, The Last Straw!
For the first time this gives an accurate assessment of the environmental impact of straw production in the UK. This was made possible by the European Up Straw INTERREG funded project.
Led by The School of Natural Building this Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is hugely significant as it not only stamps its importance in the use of straw as an insulation material but will enable the construction sector to cite it as a relevant tool in lowering carbon emissions in the built environment.
Well done all at The School of Natural Building! More info is here
Energising our buildings has never become more important than now.
The savvy among you would have been content to be up to speed with an ‘EPC’ or ‘U-Value’ but nowadays, the general public in the UK are seeing terminologies such as, ‘Whole House Approach’, ‘External Wall Insulation’ (EWI), ‘Internal Wall Insulation’ (IWI), ‘PAS 2035’ and ‘Retrofit’ as part of their everyday vocabulary.
What does it mean and why has it become so popular headline in our everyday lives?
Like-minded groups such as AECB, ASBP, CAT, STBA and the Architects Journal have admirably championed for the interrelated pathways of Retrofitting (better materials/products, more training et al) and more recently LETI published their formidable document, Climate Emergency Retrofit Guide which joins all of the dots of what can be a very confusing landscape.
Our friends, the Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) have set up the campaign ‘Households Declare’ and in a very simple to understand, and concise way, spell out to the government that we need to do more in enabling ‘retrofit’ as part of the construction industry’s outlook in the built environment.
We, at SBUK support this, and with ACAN ask you to declare a climate emergency for your homes.
The School of Natural Building are working with Studio 3 Arts to build an extension on their community centre.
Not only is the work carried out using low carbon materials including strawbales but a course next week with the School of Natural Building – 23rd to 27th August – will cover practical aspects of strawbale building: how to dress and customise bales, notching, loadbearing and infill techniques, compression of the wall, and much more. See here to enrol on the course
This project demonstrates the power of public sector partnering: in making change for the local community through Government; local statutory bodies and interdepartmental support and resources – in essence, everything we worked with UPSTRAW to deliver
Yesterday the bales were delivered – the work and fun now begins!
How did we do? Click image below to fill out quick survey.
A panel of expert speakers met last night to present the benefits of constructing with straw, the data behind the resources and the heritage of this natural building material in Architects Climate Action Network‘s (ACAN) Masterclass for Straw
A captive audience, comprising of practioners from the built environment to keenly interested people were treated to a two hour session of education and fun!
The effectiveness of this material has been hotly debated over the years, misunderstood and misrepresented. Backed up with science, the audience listened to the statistics to support its robustness and debated its relevancy.
Engaging conversation about community bonding to delivery of healthy alternatives for the domestic and public sector, heightend the audience’s awareness to building with strawbales and straw panels.
The event also acted as a launch for tonight’s start of European Strawbale Gathering 2021 (ESBG 2021).
SBUK members Barbara Jones, Phil Christopher, Joe Duirwyn and Cypren Edmunds are presenting at this festival with other European organisations of the European StrawBale Association (ESBA).
If you missed the start of ESBG 2021, there were some spectacular tours of properties in Poland, Germany, Switzerland and Estonia
Don’t miss out tomorrow or Sunday – Click on the picture above for tickets now!
John Butler has been digging away in the vaults of Government data and statistics to ascertain the answer to one of the most often asked questions we receive, “Is there enough straw to build”?
The figures are interestingly optimistic (we shan’t spoilt it for you!).
Dig in and sift through this very vital piece of work
The partners of UP STRAW have collated, through the ‘Zoreto’ platform, an open source database of free reference management tools that allows the user to manage bibliographical data and documents such as websites, videos, scientific articles, books and PDFs.
This will cover the regulatory aspects, construction techniques, technical and environmental performance, fire security and acoustics and scientific publications of building with Strawbales or Straw panels from around the world.
Enjoy your search here
Through his initial foray as a roofer, to the lessons learnt as a lime plasterer, we hear how Ben has honed his craft as a tradesman and, diligently educates as a course tutor.
Listen, learn and enjoy: Treating damp with Lime Plaster – Ben Kerslake – BS042
Last year, SBUK member Dr Judith Thornton wrote a paper on Airtightness, of which we referenced here: https://strawbalebuildinguk.com/airtightness-and-natural-building-materials-by-judith-thornton
Richard Dormandy has led the work on Holy Trinity Tulse Hill’s strawbale building, the ‘Neigbourhood Hub’, and you can watch The Holy Trinity ‘airtightness’ videos here:
A network of architects and built environment professionals met tonight to see the unveiling of The Carbon Footprint Of Construction.
Led by ACAN – Architects Climate Action Network – over 300 delegates participated in tonight’s launch, listening to expert Speakers and colloborating in workshop/Breakout rooms.
If you want to help to decarbonise the construction sector, here is what you can do:
A well executed presentation drawing in all of the topical points in ‘strawbuilding’ construction including, ‘load-bearing’, in-fill’, ‘straw-panels’, ‘fabric first’, ‘cradle to cradle’, ‘fire-resistance’, ‘retrofit’, ‘standards’, ‘wall finishing’, and more!
His 30 minute presentation is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVJxTyQvzk0
You can see the whole programme of workshops on the link below at the bottom of the page (Building-Systems-Workshop-Recording-Links-Dec-2020)
Wednesday 5th April
Essential policies are vital for the construction sector to deliver strong guidance for climate action.
Our event with Architectural Association School of Architecture for ‘Living Retrofitting Urbanism’ was a success – video will be available soon.